It's Take Charge Thursday, and this week we're helping you prepare for the upcoming flu season.
Local health officials say they're already seeing some flu activity in our area, and the threat of the swine flu makes it even more important to be ready this year.
At this point, many county health departments have already started giving their regular seasonal flu shots.
They're also preparing for another round of shots for the swine flu, whenever the vaccinations arrive.
But they say taking a few extra steps can keep your family, and your neighbors, much safer this year.
For many, the seasonal flu shot is an annual thing.
“Our entire family gets the flu shot so that we have less of a chance of bringing the virus into the house,” said Lori Seel, who was getting her flu shot at the County City Building in South Bend.
But health officials say unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to prepare.
“Any protection that you can give yourself to fight off the flu, regardless of what kind of virus, is going to be good,” said Kelly Jolliff with the St. Joseph County Health Department.
In St. Joseph County, they try to make the shots as convenient as possible, by spreading clinics out throughout the county, and having drive-thru clinics; as they will at 3 fire stations this year.
“You don’t even have to get out of your car you just drive up through get your forms and get your seasonal flu shot,” Jolliff said.
It's an extra important issue for kids at schools.
“In school settings of course we're working in close proximity with others we’re touching things and we're around each other frequently… We can't enforce parents to get their children vaccinated but we can encourage them to talk to their doctors or practitioners,” said Melissa Ness-Nyirongo, Health Services Director at the South Bend Community School Corporation.
Health officials say it's important to note that the seasonal shot will not protect against the swine flu.
That will require a separate vaccine, which health officials hope will make its way to our area by October.
“We're working with our community partners and the state Department of Health and the CDC to develop a distribution plan,” Jolliff said.
But on the whole, vigilance can literally save a life.
“Seasonal flu kills 36,000 people every year in the United States. The flu is always serious whether its seasonal flu, of the novel H1N1 strain,” Jolliff said.
You can also get shots at the South Bend and Mishawaka Health Department locations 5 days a week. They’re $20, and children can get vaccinated for free if your family qualifies for the assistance program.
"You can always talk to your provider. I believe if you have Medicare of Medicaid it does provide some coverage there, then there's the vaccines for children program. We can give free flu shots to children that are eligible for that program, so feel free to come to the health department or contact the health department," Jolliff said.
Prices and dates of flu shot clinics vary by county, so call your health department at the number below, or copy and paste the web link for more relevant information. Or, call the United Way 2-1-1 hotline to find the flu shot location nearest you.
St. Joseph County Health Department: (574) 245-6656
Elkhart County Health Department: (574) 523-2127
Berrien County Health Department: (269) 927-5627
Laporte County Health Department: (219) 326-6808 in Laporte; (219) 874-5611 ext 7780 in Michigan City
Cass County, MI: (269) 621-3143
Van Buren County, MI: (269) 621-3143
Marshall County Health Department: (574) 935-8565
Note that in many cases it is not necessary for you to reside in the county where you receive your shot.